The endangered saiga antelope of Kazakhstan has suffered many mass population losses over the decades, often due to poaching.
What's behind the recent and abrupt deaths of more than 100,000 of them, however, remains unknown. The animals began to die off thousands at a time last week.
At this time the primary suspected cause is a pasteurellosis, a condition brought about by a bacterial infection, but that theory is not without its skeptics.
E.J. Milner-Gulland, the head of the UK-based Saiga Conservation Alliance notes that the disease targets animals that have already been weakened by stress or other illnesses.
She also said, "The fact that you are getting positive reports of Pasteurella doesn't mean the bacterium is the underlying reason the animals are dying. The bacteria is there naturally and it's a kind of opportunistic."
Though she's reluctant to suggest an alternative explanation a member of an activist group in the area has proposed that chemicals are to blame.
An individual affiliated with the Anti-Heptyl movement asserts that the deaths are likely connected to the toxic substances spread by Russian rocket launches.
Veterinary experts have been brought into the country to further investigate.
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